Local World Youth Day

Pilgrims from around the archdiocese reflect on World Youth Day

Pilgrims awoke early to watch the sunrise over the Tagus River on Aug. 6, the morning of the concluding Mass for World Youth Day. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

My biggest takeaway from World Youth Day is that the church is truly universal! Attending Catholic school, I learned early on that ‘Catholic’ means ‘universal.’ While attending WYD, I was able to experience the universal church personally: First and most expansively, I attended Mass with 1.5 million pilgrims. While we do not all speak the same language, we all are united in the universality of the Mass. Second, I experienced the beauty of the Catholic Church in America while attending a talk with Bishop Robert Barron. Spending time in adoration after the talk with other pilgrims from America was powerful. Finally, I experienced the unity of the church within our archdiocese. I met new people from around the archdiocese and reconnected with others I knew. I loved sharing the World Youth Day experience with such a fantastic group from right here in Kansas City.

Ariana Brancato, 23
Church of the Nativity in Leawood

My highlight was when we did the candlelight procession in Fatima. It began in a rosary said in multiple languages and you could hear and see the universality of the church. It was incredible to think that so many people had come from all across the world to honor Mary in a procession.

AJ Hastings, 17
Queen of the Holy Rosary in Wea

The strengths of World Youth Day lie not in its “showiness,” the well-choreographed dances, the modern look from its graphic designs, the technologically impressive drone art, etc. Rather, its strength was the strength of the cross: suffering. Hundreds of thousands of Catholics made a pilgrimage where we suffered together for Christ. Our group slept on gym floors on good days and on swampy, muddy fields on bad ones. We were tired, hot, and really dehydrated, but the same could be said of Christ. For me, the suffering made the whole trip worth it.

Michael Santamarina, 20
Seminarian from Church of the Ascension in Overland Park

The most impactful part of my trip was the procession of the Virgin Mary at Fátima. It just strengthened my faith in the power of praying to Mary. Being able to share this with my daughter was wonderful.

Roxanne Nellor
Chaperone from Queen of the Holy Rosary in Wea

Nothing prepared me for the prayers that would be answered on this trip. I have been praying for humility for over a year now, and not surrendering to it at all. Well God showed up in a big way. Having emergent surgery 2 days prior to leaving for Portugal, I was forced to humble myself to let others help me. Whether it was pushing me in a wheelchair along a cobblestone road for miles or carrying my big luggage up five flights of stairs or through the airports, this KCK group went above and beyond to show me what true Christ centered service looks like. I will forever be changed.

Joanna Crawford
Chaperone from Christ the King Parish in Topeka

In Lisbon, I received a glimpse of the universal church. There were people from Portugal (obviously), Spain, France, Germany, England, Scotland, Australia, Canada, Lebanon, people from all parts of the U.S., etc. Every other person seemed to speak a different language. It was amazing to see the church, so complex and yet one. She is truly the work of God!

Will Sutherland, 24
Seminarian from Most Pure Heart of Mary in Topeka

Throughout World Youth Day, I was blessed to be surrounded by fellow Catholics. I met Catholics from other countries and made friends with those in our archdiocese. It was a good reminder that many young people are strong in their faith. Daily Mass with Archbishop Naumann was a highlight, as God inspired me through him.

James Block, 17
Church of the Nativity in Leawood

There is one day in particular that really stands out for me — a day we spent at the Church of St. Catherine, one of the most ornate churches I have ever seen. . . . I thought we were just there for a talk by Archbishop Naumann, but we also heard testimonies from other priests, songs from youth around the world, an opportunity for confession, and celebrated holy Mass. As I knelt for eucharistic adoration, I was so thankful to be in that beautiful church, in Portugal, among the many people who shared my faith. I couldn’t help but wonder who would have worshiped there in that space before me thousands of years ago. As Archbishop Naumann held up the monstrance during Benediction, a burst of sunlight from a small upper window illuminated the Eucharist. It was a powerful moment that brought real tears to my eyes. I knew Jesus was there.

Jenny VanLeeuwen
Chaperone from Mother Teresa Church in Topeka

I signed up for this pilgrimage with my 15-year-old daughter, so she might have the same experience that I had as a teenager, 30 years ago at WYD 1993 in Denver. I didn’t expect that I would have such a profound experience myself. There are so many ways that God revealed himself to our group through this trip. We started keeping a list because there were so many we were afraid we would forget them once we were back in our everyday lives. As a confirmation teacher, this experience has reignited my passion for teaching the Catholic faith to our youth!

Sarah Good
Chaperone from Christ the King Parish in Topeka

I was blessed to be invited to pray at some of the most random times and unexpected places. It really reminds me that God is ever present, and it challenges me to turn to him in prayer even when I feel like it’s inconvenient because ultimately, he will always be there to fill me up. When am I hurting, sad, or even overjoyed, all of those are awesome times to turn to the Lord and share my sorrow and/or happiness with him.

Jimmy Mendoza
Seminarian from Holy Spirit Parish in Overland Park

If I could choose one highlight from the trip to Portugal, I would have to say the welcoming ceremony where the pope paraded in. When he came parading in, it brought me so much joy and brought tears to my eyes. Not only could I feel the happiness for myself, but I could feel the happiness from everyone else that was there to welcome him. From the jumping screaming, clapping, and wanting to be in the front to get the best view. It was overall a great experience and moment to see so many different people from around the world ready to spread the word of God together as a whole with the pope.

Skylar Neiberger, 16
Mother Teresa of Calcutta Parish in Topeka

At the conclusion of the Sunday Angelus, Pope Francis offered one last ‘obrigado’ (thank you) to our grandparents who ‘passed on the horizon of a lifetime.’ Having been raised close to my father’s Portuguese culture, I was especially moved in the days that I had to pray on Portuguese soil and to be with the people in our host village. The ‘horizon of a lifetime’ for me has been Jesus, and he has led me on the great adventure of my religious vocation that has meant sharing life with people in Kansas City and being able to accompany old and new friends on this pilgrimage.

Sister M. Karolyn Nunes
Vocation director for the Franciscan Sisters of the Martyr St. George

I just started a young adult youth group in my parish. It has been a little hard since most of them haven’t really been trying their best to go and be part of it. We have had problems with reaching out to new persons to integrate into the group. Before leaving to Lisboa to the pilgrimage I thought about closing the group, but while [being] there and [seeing] how many youth there were and how much devotion they had, it gave me strengths to keep the group going and to help my youth strengthen in their faith. I just have to be patient, and God is the one that will make everything work in the right time! He is never wrong; I just need to keep my head up and face it towards him always with faith and modesty.

Yairet Reyes, 20
Blessed Sacrament Parish in Kansas City, Kansas

Despite minor difficulties and a few unfortunate moments, my journeys at World Youth Day were filled with graces and experiences of God’s presence. The most profound graces were given when I traveled to Santiago de Compostela with other seminarians. Our journey led us to the final resting place of countless saints, including St. Elizabeth of Portugal and the Five Franciscan Protomartyrs in the city of Coimbra and the tomb of the Apostle St. James in Santiago de Compostela. Encountering all of these relics was certainly moving, but encountering them with brother seminarians was life-changing: It was a reminder that our true pilgrimage (to sanctity and to heaven) cannot be done alone — we need true friends and the grace of God.

John Donart, 26
Seminarian from Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Shawnee

The highlight of the trip for me was definitely when my group went to Santarem to see the eucharistic miracle. It was in the tabernacle and you couldn’t really see it that well, so my group prayed that our priest, Father Thomas Maddock, could go see it up close. He went and asked, and to our surprise, our whole group could. So, we went into the secret staircase of this old church and got to see it up close. It was amazing.

Rhiannon Good, 15
Christ the King Parish in Topeka

The highlight of the pilgrimage was definitely going to Fatima and seeing Pope Francis. It was also an eye opening experience, seeing all the pilgrims together, celebrating Mass and being in God’s presence.

Tatum Schumaker, 18
Queen of the Holy Rosary Parish in Wea

Something God revealed to me through this pilgrimage is that, in the midst of trials, I can trust he draws close to me and that I remain his beloved daughter. He also revamped my understanding of how Mary is truly our mother.

Caitlin Schneider
Youth minister at Queen of the Holy Rosary Parish in Wea

I don’t normally post about ministry but had to share the joy about our parish’s trip to World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal to see Pope Francis and one and a half million Catholics, as well as our trip to Fátima. What a gift to have a front row seat to the interior conversions of those around me and to make such great friends. It was a treat to go with the seminarians and Archbishop Naumann. Our 16 parishioners truly had a pilgrimage with many blisters and cockroaches included. A huge thanks to our host families and village from the Seixal region across the river. They opened their hearts and homes and culture to us. Prayers for all of you I know. Jesus, I trust in you. Lisbon, Portugal, needs to be on your bucket list.

Doug Leikam
Youth minister at Holy Spirit Parish in Overland Park

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The Leaven

The Leaven is the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

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